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Madikizela-Mandela Fraud Trial to Start in July - 2001-11-20

In South Africa, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's trial on fraud charges has been delayed until July. The ex-wife of former President Nelson Mandela made her second court appearance in the case Tuesday.

The trial of Ms. Madikizela-Mandela is now set to begin July 8. She faces 85 charges of fraud and theft involving more than $100,000.

The charges stem from an alleged bank fraud scam involving her co-defendant, broker Addy Moolman. Police say he used her name and letterhead stationary from the African National Congress Women's League, which she heads, to obtain loans for non-existent Women's League employees. Her signature is alleged to appear on the applications.

Ms. Madikizela-Mandela has vehemently denied the charges. She says the court case is part of a campaign to discredit her, spawned by her enemies within the ruling party, the ANC.

The Pretoria courtroom was packed with her supporters, and members of the ANC Women's League sang and clapped encouragement for her outside the courthouse.

For the 27 years Nelson Mandela spent in prison under the apartheid regime, his wife, Winnie, was his public face. She is credited with keeping him at the center of international attention, and she herself was banned and imprisoned by the apartheid government. Their marriage collapsed not long after his release from jail, and they divorced in 1996.

To many poor urban blacks, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela remains a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle. But despite her popularity, her relations with top ANC leaders have become increasingly hostile in recent years. She has had a long-running public feud with current President Thabo Mbeki.

She accuses the party leadership of forgetting about their roots and becoming a new, rich black elite. She continues to live in the township of Soweto, long after other ANC leaders have left for Johannesburg's more affluent northern suburbs.

The flamboyant 64-year-old is a member of parliament, but she rarely appears in the Cape Town chamber for debates.

The bank fraud case is not Ms. Madikizela-Mandela's first brush with the law. Ten years ago, she was convicted of kidnapping in connection with the killing of a 14-year-old who was beaten to death by her bodyguards.